Ocular perineuritis secondary to neurosyphilis

Optom Vis Sci. 2010 Oct;87(10):E790-6. doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e3181f361b0.


Background: Syphilis is a condition caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum (T. pallidum). Because of its ubiquitous nature, it has been coined as "the great masquerader." Syphilis can present with a wide array of clinical symptoms and manifestations, making it difficult to diagnose. The spectrum of visual system manifestations is broad and involves the anterior and posterior segments. We report a rare case of ocular perineuritis in an HIV-positive patient with neurosyphilis.

Case report: A 33-year-old HIV-positive white male presented with blurred vision and floaters of 2 weeks duration. He reported coinciding neurological symptoms including headaches, nausea, and extreme weight loss. He also manifested an erythematous rash on his scalp. Fundoscopy revealed bilateral disc edema.

Conclusions: Syphilitic ocular perineuritis is a condition that manifests with swollen optic discs in the absence of raised intracranial pressure or visual disturbance. This condition is due to inflammation of the optic nerve sheath and is often mistaken for papilledema or papillitis. Optic perineuritis is an infrequently reported complication of syphilitic disease. Early diagnosis of neurosyphilis and its complications is critical, because it is easily treated with penicillin when initiated early on.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurosyphilis / complications*
  • Neurosyphilis / diagnosis
  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Optic Nerve / pathology*
  • Optic Neuritis / diagnosis
  • Optic Neuritis / etiology*
  • Vision, Ocular
  • Young Adult